Illness anxiety disorder is a health anxiety disorder. It is often chronic. A person with illness anxiety disorder is often very anxious about their health. They have fears that a real or imagined minor physical symptom is a sign of serious illness. Even when several doctors assure them otherwise, the person is convinced that they have a serious disease. Psychiatric counseling and medications can relieve some, if not all, of the
and suffering. Left untreated, illness anxiety disorder can be debilitating and affect daily function.
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. If the exam shows no disease, your doctor may begin to suspect illness anxiety disorder. If further testing also fails to uncover a known medical condition, your doctor may diagnosis you with illness anxiety disorder if:
Your fear of illness lasts for at least 6 months and does not improve with reassurance and negative testing
No other psychological disorder is causing your fear
Effective treatment involves consistent, supportive care from one doctor, often along with a mental health professional. Finding a healthcare provider who is willing to listen to your concerns, provide support, and avoid needless testing is key to recovery.
You may feel overwhelmed by your symptoms. They may even seem to control your life. Schedule frequent visits, regardless of symptoms, with one doctor you can trust. Expect your doctor to:
Validate your distress
Direct your attention away from symptoms and focus it on functioning in daily life
Discourage a sense of dependency and disability
Recommend psychiatric counseling and educational therapy
Psychotherapy such as
and behavioral stress management can be effective in treating illness anxiety disorder. This involves regular counseling with a psychotherapist to recognize false beliefs, understand anxiety, and stop anxious behaviors.